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A Quiet Night In The Lunch Room
James R Fulton
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I do not like to argue this way, you know, vociferous. Even if your ideas may have a very good resounding ring of truth to them, they never seem as such if you are shouting over your opponent to express them, and most of the times you end up sounding like the village idiot anyhow. And such it was the other night.
It was a quiet night and my coworker and I were sitting in the lunchroom just doing some idle chitchat - maybe that was an omen, who knows. But all of a sudden, I found myself raising my voice and getting all red in the face, which isn’t much of a leap for a redhead like myself; it just adds a bit of dramatics to a heated situation –sort of like a Puffer fish when threaten, but I digress.
Anyway, it’s not real important on how my coworker and I ended up on the subject other than to say I wouldn’t let go of a statement that was made, perhaps made in jest by my co-worker – he does have the spirit of provokness about himself, or perhaps it was made to reveal something about him that’s actually a true statement, but whatever was the reason for my friend in saying what he said, I couldn’t let go of it after I felt I made a valid point.
The original discussion had to deal with some theological issues. When discussing the different aspects of theology, somewhere along the conversation some one may touch upon the challenge that God, if one exists, isn’t a good and gracious deity, but one who is full of venom and vinegar and really doesn’t know what He is doing. The statement that got us going was this: “Surely, you are not saying that a god who has the power to stop anything, like a child who has been raped, sodomized, and then had their life come to an abrupt halt by way of strangulation is a good and gracious god?”
You will need to be careful here because an attack has just been made on you belief system through a highly emotion situation, regardless if the event is real or presumptuous, and if not heeding to the wind of caution you might end up feeling like a cornered cat with nothing but fangs and claws showing as your ego goes into protect mode. All manner of calm speech goes out the window, and the next thing that comes out of your mouth is – “GOD STILL LOVES YOU ANYWAY, YOU PINHEAD!” Yeah, that’s the way to express the love of God; bludgeon your opponent with it. (I didn’t call him names, although…)
I was cornered. My God was just attacked and by not answering, it made me appear weak, ignorant and other unflattering things to the male ego. That’s what can happen when pride dictates and the Spirit of Truth gets kicked to the backseat Maybe I should have listened to that little voice that told me, “walk away, Jim”, I mean, it wouldn’t have changed God any if I had, and my coworker’s view definitely wouldn’t have change any either, but the gauntlet was thrown down; I had to say something, but I didn’t know how to express the words to defend my position after the opening volley, I had nothing left except ardent reverberation.
What do you do? By not answering the charge, your silence may be seen as a concession to the argument. However, if you do give an answer that you haven’t quite thought out, you may open up a can of proverbial worms and get into stuff that is way over your head so that five minutes into the debate, you start to resemble the southern exposure of a horse. Yet there is another possibility that may apply here; it’s what my Dad uses to say when he didn’t quite agree with your opinion – “whatever floats your boat,” which could become a convenient way of skirting the controversy all together.
I realize now that it’s quite all right to use the response, “I don’t know, but I will find out,” but then I have a duty not only to the person who raised the point, but to myself as well. Although I may never see this person again, I will have an answer for the next time. The rest of this essay could be considered my homework.
No one wants to appear foolish before his or her colleagues or the person that they are in contention with. And if you don’t know how to handle these points of discussion, you too may appear to look like a village idiot. The best way I have found to avoid looking ridiculous while at the same time answering your opponents’ enquiries is to break down the argument.
This is best heard on a tape that I have from the late Doctor Walter Martin, founder of Christian Research Institute and author of many books dealing with the cults of Christianity and the occult as well. Dr. Martin would break down an argument into its components where it was easier to deal with.
On the tape, Dr. Martin hypothetically placed the person with whom he was debating with in the Lord’s shoes, so to speak. He told them at a given moment they would have omniscience bestowed to them, and then he had the person make a decree that all evil in the world will not exist. What happened next was very interesting. Martin explained this is what would happen: at the given time of the announcement, all human life on planet Earth would cease. And it goes without saying that all future human life would not happen either, because the only way to deal with evil if you are a just God is to obliterate evil in the present and stop it’s future.
So taking a page from the mind of Walter, one of the ways to deal with an attack like the one I had is to go to the issue of God’s omniscience. Several questions will certainly arise such as: Does God know about the horrid event that took place? Most definitely. Then why didn’t he stop it? This leads into the second part of the solution, God’s sovereignty.
Bill Gates has made oodles of money by doing what he does best, making computers. You might even say, that when it comes to computers, Mr. Gates is sovereign. Mr. Gates is also a very generous man. He has declared that before he dies, he would want to give away most of his fortune, if that could be at all possible: it is estimated that he is worth 100 billion dollars. For all that he is worth, and is willing to part with, in his graciousness, nowhere is it written that he is obligated to give it away. Ultimately, it’s his rule and finances to do whatever he wants with it.
The same can be said about an omniscient God. Just because He knows something is going to happen, doesn’t mean He has to stop it. Sometime in the past eons, this deity set up rules that He has to follow because His character must stay true to who He is: God. I think we forget about this aspect of the Lord; once again, He has rules that He has to follow, set up by Himself…apart from our consultation.
But we think - “How dare you do these things to us, how arrogant, how selfish you are God - IT’S OUR LIFE!” ...Is it? I swear sometimes, I think we are nothing more than impatient, self-absorbed bores, with little to no sense when it comes to the matters of the Lord. We are the ones who are being selfish and small-minded when we take on this attitude. We are responsible for the actions that take place in our lives however, that does not equate to us being responsible for sustaining it. That’s God’s job and His job only, for it is written – “that man does not live on bread alone, but by every thing that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3). *
God is responsible for sustaining our lives from the moment we are conceived to the moment we enter into His presence and thereafter. I realize that this is very hard to understand, because we breathe and eat and basically enjoy the life we are given without thought of who’s really paying for all of this, even those of us who believes in a sovereign Lord at times forget this all too important fact of life. Nevertheless, it is not we sustaining ourselves but the very word of God and the very breath He breathes into us. In other words, our permanence and existence is based on the sole fact that without God, we are nothing; in fact we are nonexistence.
Another thing to consider about God’s sovereignty, is the image we were made in, specifically speaking – the image of God. When He did make the human race, He declared us good. Then the woman talked to the serpent, the man ate of the fruit, and the next thing you know, Adam and Eve lost Eden. But yet, God didn’t rush in and punish the evildoers, who would have been every one on the planet, by totally destroying His creation and starting over again. What He did do was to provide a way to extend His grace to a people that so desperately needed it.
So the question arises; what is the appropriate way to serve justice? Total annihilation? Not doing anything in hopes of the person will see the errors of their ways? How does God dish out justice?
One way is found in the story of creation: God deals with evil by bringing justice in the form of a curse - “because you did this… (to the serpent) you will crawl on the ground … (to the woman) you will have great pain in childbirth …(to the man) cursed is the ground.” In spite of all of these curses, all of this retribution, which He was justified in doing, there is grace extended to us as well: “I will (talking to the serpent) put open hostility between you and the woman. Between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15) In case you missed it, justice is served and grace is extended. I return to the original point- how do I know God is good and gracious? Simultaneously, justice is met while saving us from our fate, death.
But dollars to donuts, there are some impassionate people who would want total destruction to the souls who do evil in the sight of the Lord, but it’s not up to them to take upon themselves being the tool of God’s judgment for the simple reason that God says “all vengeance is mine; I will repay” And the sad news is that God will bestow His justice in ways that we may not like and shed mercy and grace to those we don’t like. We must remember that He is sovereign and we may not like every decision that He makes. But He must stay true to who He is - a holy and just God.
To sum up: After all of this evidence revealed about God’s character, and taking into affect the original thought based on a horrific event taking place, regardless if it were pretend or not, how can we logically and legally hold God accountable for the acts of an individual? We can’t.
We can’t get around the fact that we are a fallen creation, caused by our own devices, responsible for the actions we take. We are not cars that are subject to recalls from our manufacturer who lives far away. Nor are we innocent babes lost in the woods without a lick of sense let loose to wonder about all because of a careless act from an aloof father.
I guess what this all boils down to is this: Men, not God, have made some incredulous decisions when it has come to dealing with the reality of God that has led us to this point so far. It is far better to line up our will with God’s will, because at that point, all who follow benefit from it. It is utterly foolish on our part to go our separate ways, which lead us further away from the one who can save us and has, God.
*(Other scriptures that support this idea are: Genesis 2:7 “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Job 12:10 “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 27:3 “as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils” Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Ezekiel 37:5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” And Revelation 11:11 “But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.”)
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